Migrating Your File Servers: How, Why and Where

Sam Linley

As the pros outweigh the cons, increasing amounts of customers are migrating their file servers to the cloud for enhanced flexibility, agility, and, if they choose wisely, greater security.

Young business professional standing in brightly lit modern office space while using a digital tablet device

It is undeniably more beneficial over the long-term to migrate your file server to the cloud than invest in on-prem. The reasons for this include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Cloud solutions allow you to pay for only the storage you use and scale up or down as needed moving from a CAPEX cost to an OPEX model. You also remove the need to purchase, maintain and sweat costly servers, the cost of electricity for powering and cooling, software licenses, and the salaries for IT personnel to manage the hardware.
  • Cost-Accessibility: Cloud solutions allow you to access your files from anywhere with an internet connection, using a web browser or a mobile device. They also offer you the ability to isolate sensitive data by routing shares through private networks without internet access.
  • Collaboration: Cloud solutions allow multiple users to work on the same files at the same time and see each other’s changes in real-time.
  • Integration with other Microsoft products: As Wanstor recommends Microsoft-based cloud solutions, these can easily be integrated with other Microsoft products and services, such as Office 365 and OneDrive, providing a seamless experience for users.

In addition, backups are effortless, cost-effective and automated allowing rapid restore. Disaster recovery is also simplified as all data is stored in a separate cloud region and replicated asynchronously between these regions. This allows minimal data loss when the unforeseen disasters occur and minimal downtime.

Often it is not quite as simple as moving like-for-like - migrating from on-premises to the cloud can be more complex than simply moving data and applications from one location to another.

There are several challenges a company faces with a file server migration to the cloud, and they should be made aware of them. Some of these include:

  • Security concerns: One of the biggest challenges of moving to the cloud is ensuring the security of data and applications
  • Cost: Migrating to the wrong cloud solution, can be expensive, especially if the companies need to move large amounts of data
  • Compliance: Companies may face compliance challenges if they are subject to regulations that require them to keep certain data on-prem
  • Integration with existing systems: Companies with complex IT environments with multiple systems and applications will need to have these integrated
  • Lack of in-house expertise: Companies might not have the in-house expertise or resources to manage a cloud migration project, which can make the process more difficult

A good provider will, however, complete all the assessment work in the background to prepare and then deliver a disruption-free transition. In fact, an ideal summary of works would involve no one other than the IT team ever knowing the level of complexity involved.

Infographic showing a basic m365 migration

Often, it’s not quite as simple as moving like for like. Migrating from on-premises to the cloud can be more complex than simply moving data and applications from one location to another. In many cases, companies have redundant servers, duplicated or unclean data, and other assets that need to be audited and cleaned up before they can be moved to the cloud.

This process of streamlining assets before migration can save money and ensure that the migration goes smoothly. However, it requires careful planning and coordination to ensure that the company’s operations are not disrupted during the migration process.

Additionally, migrating to the cloud can be expensive and complex, but it can also lead to cost savings and increased efficiency in the long run. As with many digital transformation projects, the initial costs and effort can be daunting, but they are often necessary in order to achieve the desired benefits. Once a customer is interested in a file server migration, we need to consider the appropriate platform based on their requirements and the data and applications stored. Wanstor has delivered on file server migrations for numerous customers – even those which imagine it will be an impossible task.

There are two popular and quite distinct alternatives Wanstor specialises in, which customers should consider - these are Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Azure. Both are cloud-based platforms for storing and sharing files and they offer similar features and capabilities, but there are some key differences between the two that you should consider when deciding which one to use.

Microsoft SharePoint

As part of the Microsoft 365 suite, SharePoint is a collaboration and document management platform that is best suited for teams that work together on the same files. It allows companies to store and collaborate on a wide range of files such as documents, images and videos. When your staff need version control, co-authoring or workflow management, SharePoint is the best option.

Infographic showing SharePoint features

It is offered on a subscription basis, with a certain amount of storage included per user and companies have the option to purchase additional storage if they need it. This pricing model allows companies to easily scale their SharePoint usage up or down as their needs change. It comes with a large amount of security features including data encryption, user authentication, access control, auditing and reporting, updates, and patching which in turn allows for safe and easy remote or hybrid working. For businesses wishing to store documents off-prem but regularly access and work on them collaboratively, it is ideal.

Microsoft Azure

Azure Files, on the other hand, is a file storage and sharing platform that is part of Microsoft Azure. It allows users to store and share files in the cloud, and access them from any device with an internet connection. Azure files shares are designed for storing large amounts of data and offers excellent scalability and has varying levels of high availability.

Infographic showing Azure features

Azure files are priced on a pay-as-you-go basis based on the amount of data stored and the number of transactions performed. They have different authentication methods such as Azure authentication, on-premise Active Directory authentication, and Azure File Sync server options.

Azure file shares are a great place to store data that needs to be archived or set to immutable for a period, or if you have legacy applications that require SMB access or mapped drives with NTFS permissions.

Both solutions involve Microsoft managing, maintaining, and securing the servers and data. SharePoint is better suited for collaboration and document management, while Azure File Shares are better suited for high-capacity storage and file sharing.Costs for both should be considered in context of functionality and need because picking the right solution will lead to cost savings.

This is an important step in building your IT footprint, so do speak to a provider to understand what will deliver most value for you.